Tuesday, March 5, 2013

{Review} Emilie & the Hollow World by Martha Wells

Title: Emilie & the Hollow World
Author: Martha Wells
Format: Netgalley ebook ARC
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Release date: April 2nd, 2013
Date Read: February 7th, 2013
Rating: ✭✭✭
While running away from home for reasons that are eminently defensible, Emilie’s plans to stow away on the steamship Merry Bell and reach her cousin in the big city go awry, landing her on the wrong ship and at the beginning of a fantastic adventure.

Taken under the protection of Lady Marlende, Emilie learns that the crew hopes to use the aether currents and an experimental engine, and with the assistance of Lord Engal, journey to the interior of the planet in search of Marlende’s missing father.

With the ship damaged on arrival, they attempt to traverse the strange lands on their quest. But when evidence points to sabotage and they encounter the treacherous Lord Ivers, along with the strange race of the sea-lands, Emilie has to make some challenging decisions and take daring action if they are ever to reach the surface world again.

Actual Rating: 3.75

I've read pretty much every type of YA book there is. Romances, thrillers, horror, science fiction, contemporary... But I can honestly say, I have never read anything like EMILIE & THE HOLLOW WORLD. It's most definitely unique. 

While I use the term "YA" to describe EMILIE & THE HOLLOW WORLD, I use it very lightly. It's at times YA, but for the most part, it feels very MG. Personally, I don't have problems reading MG books (though I usually have poor luck with them), but others might feel this too childish and laughable.

EMILIE & THE HOLLOW WORLD is about a girl, Emilie, who ran away from home and is trying to go to her cousins and their amazing boarding school. She sneaks onboard the wrong ship in her haste not to get caught. It turns out this "ship" is actually a submarine and is going to the "Hollow World" or the Earth's core (which is apparently hollow).

While unique, I at times found it passing unique into the realm of "just plain weird". For me, there's a thin line between "whoa, this is really unique" and "whoa, wtf am I reading?". Sadly, EMILIE & THE HOLLOW WORLD did go into the latter category at times, though I still really enjoyed it.

One problem I had with the story is the sexism. It's fairly light but I was one more "guns aren't for girls, they would never be able to use them" away from screaming. I get it, it's the times but seriously? Use it once and then STAPH.

Another problem I had, which is a bit bigger than the previous one, is that the people on the ship accepted the fact that Emilie was there way too easily. This is supposed to be a very secret voyage and they seemed way to okay with the fact that there's some random girl with them.


Emilie is brave but fairly stupid - though most of her stupidity is plot needed which doesn't really make me forgive her. I really loved her since she reminded me of September from The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which was pretty cool since I adore September and that book.

The other characters weren't that developed, but not poorly done. I would have liked some more fleshing out for a few of the characters but in this book, I didn't really care since the reason I loved EMILIE & THE HOLLOW WORLD was because of the descriptions and writing.

Plot and Writing


The plot wasn't all that defined. I'm not really sure why they were down there in the first place but I'm fairly certain that it has something to do with Miss Marlende's father who went missing down there. I know there was another reason but for the life of me, I can't remember it. 

The lack of distinct plot was all right for me since I read it while I had a pretty bad fever and I don't think I could have been able to get through a very plot focused book. That said, I'm sure other people would find this problematic. 

One slight problem I had with the world building was that I could never really imagine the submarine that they were in. Was it like the one in TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA or maybe like a modern day sub? Adding onto my previous problem, what time period was it? Without a clear understanding of when the story was taking place, I could never really imagine the submarine.

Other than that, the descriptions of the creatures and the places were pretty awesome. I really felt like I was right there, watching the kelp creatures swim around. The extreme fantasy of EMILIE & THE HOLLOW WORLD was a refreshing break from the dystopians and paranormal romances that I mostly read.


At times, the world building was really weak but other times, it was vivid and exciting. I really loved the descriptions of the Hollow World and the creatures there. The novel was very well paced and kept me reading still I finished it. 

Likes and Dislikes


- world building

- writing
- plot
- setting


- lack of world building at times

- sexism
- lack of definition to the characters


I really loved EMILIE & THE HOLLOW WORLD but it's definitely not for everyone. It's at times very childish and stupid but I still enjoyed it and recommend it to the reader who is looking for a relaxed, MG steampunk fantasy.

Lisbeth is an American teenager who enjoys blowing shit up in videogames and discussing decapitation in great detail. She's also obsessed with Oceana, but you're not supposed to know that.


  1. I recently reviewed Emilie and the Hollow World, too, and I said many of the same things you did. I didn't find the sexism bothersome, because I think Wells managed to set up a lot of those bowling pins, and then knock them right down. Think about it, after the gun quip, wasn't it Miss Marlende who uses the gun the most effectively of anyone? It was subtle, but made an impression. Good review :]

    1. There were still annoying for me, haha.